Men's health * Healthy living

Gene test for prostate cancer a step closer

Gene test for prostate cancer a step closer Could save thousands from surgery

Scientists have found a genetic pattern which could help doctors identify which prostate cancer patients require aggressive treatment.

It can also help indicate whether a cancer is likely to recur in men who have already been treated for the disease, scientists say.

More than 37,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year in the UK.

However, there is no precise test which can predict if a tumour is going to be an aggressive, fast growing type which is more likely to spread and require surgery, or a slow-growing form which only needs to be monitored.

A test which could distinguish between the different types of prostate cancers could spare thousands of men from unnecessary treatment and side effects like impotence and incontinence every year.

In the study, men with high levels of certain genes - known as cell cycle progression (CCP) genes - were found to be three times more likely to have the fatal form of the disease compared with those with the lowest levels.

The researchers at Queen Mary, University of London, tested 703 men with prostate cancer for levels of 31 different genes involved in CCP.

They also found that of the patients who already had surgery to remove their prostate, those with the highest CCP levels were 70 per cent more likely to have a recurrence of the disease.

If the results are confirmed in large clinical trials, a test for CCP levels – alongside existing prostate cancer tests – could be used to identify men at high or low risk of the disease spreading beyond the prostate and those who are most likely to die, the scientists said.

Professor Jack Cuzick, at Queen Mary, University of London, said: “Our findings have great potential. CCP genes are expressed at higher levels in actively growing cells, so we could be indirectly measuring the growth rate and inherent aggressiveness of the tumour through our test.

“We already know that CCP levels can predict survival for breast and, more recently, brain and lung cancers. It’s really encouraging that this could also be applied to prostate cancer, where we desperately need a way to predict how aggressive the disease will be.”

Dr Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK, who funded the research said: “This is important research that could one day help solve one of the biggest problems in prostate cancer treatment. For some men, detecting prostate cancer early could be lifesaving. For others, it could mean unnecessary treatment and serious side effects.

“This test isn’t yet available for routine use, but we’ll look forward to seeing the results of large clinical trials that will tell us whether it’ll be useful for all men with prostate cancer.”

The study findings are published in the journal Lancet Oncology.

This article was published on Wed 9 February 2011

Image © Andrey Ushakov -

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